Pyramids of Mars
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1976
ISBN 0 426 11666 6
First Edition Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: For many thousands of years SUTEKH had waited... trapped in the heart of an Egyptian Pyramid. Now at last the time had come - the moment of release, when all the force of his pent-up evil and malice would be unleashed upon the world... The TARDIS lands on the site of UNIT headquarters in the year 1911, and the Doctor and Sarah emerge to fight a terrifying and deadly battle... against Egyptian Mummies, half-possessed humans - and the overwhelming evil power of SUTEKH!


One of the best... by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/1/04

Every so often the Target novelisations manage to defy all expectations, producing a book that at times causes the reader to pause and check the author, wondering if this book really is by the same person who produced certain other books in the range. Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars is one such book. Rather than merely translating the camera scripts into prose, as as evidence in many of his other novelisations, Terrance Dicks has instead enhanced the book through many little subtle additions yet at the same time still remaining true to the original story. But it is the additions which make this book a joy to read. The book opens with a prologue telling "The Legend of the Osirians" in which we learn how Sutekh was originally thwarted by Horus and came to be imprisoned within the pyramid, whilst there's also an epilogue set after Sarah finished travelling with the Doctor in which she consults an old edition of the local newspaper and finds how history has accomodated the events she has witnessed and realises how no-one will ever know what the alternative timeline (whenever it is - no date is given here) was like. It comes as no surprise that the newspaper article has been reproduced many times.

Dicks' previous novelisations of Robert Holmes' scripts (Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons and, to an extent, Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen) were all strong, suggesting that it is hard to produce a poor novelisation of a Holmes story. Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars continues this trend, providing a story with a lot of depth to it already whilst also providing the noveliser with many chances for embelishment. We learn how the Cult of the Black Pyramid have protected and hidden Sutekh's prison for millenia, killing all those who dare violate it, including Marcus Scarman's aides (and thus confirming this story as one of the rare "everyone dies" adventures) or how Ernie Clements sees himself as the Scarman's unofficial gamekeeper, keeping the estate in check, as well as how he reacts to the events around him. It is clear from the earlier Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion that Dicks has a fondness for writing about poachers and so Clements comes out as one of the most sypmathetic characters in the book, especially when he is pursued by the Mummies and realises how the animals he has spent years capturing feel. Although some characters such as Doctor Warlock make little memorable impact, others really stand out, especially Laurence Scarman as he struggles to come to terms with how his home has been turned upside down and his brother has become a walking, murdering zombie.

Sarah is characterised especially well in this book, making the reader really empathise with her as she struggles to come to terms with concepts as bizarre as Eqyptian mummies walking around and building a rocket, but the real surprise is the way the Doctor is handled. The televised story is well known for the moments where the Doctor's alieness are emphasised, but Dicks if anything goes further. There is a brief moment where Sarah realises how little she actually knows about the Doctor (and remember this book first appeared a decade before anyone could say "Cartmel Masterplan") whilst the scene where the Doctor appears casual and flippant about Laurance's death is given added depth as Sarah realises the Doctor is using a mask of flippancy to hide his true feelings. Moments like this make me wonder how Terrance Dicks would have handled a novelisation of any of the early Colin Baker stories since they too contain an alien Doctor not sharing human values. (Dicks' eventual books featuring Colin Baker's Doctor generally feature the more mellow Trial charecterisation, even when set midway through Season 22. Still, if anyone at the BBC wants to do a novelisation of ,a href=revel.htm>Revelation of the Daleks and can't get Eric Saward to write it...)

It is very hard to find anything at fault in this small book. Although it is very much a direct adaptation of the television story, Dicks has really enhanced the text, making it a truly valid tale without using the tricks most often found in Malcolm Hulke's books or reinterpreting the story in any substantial way. Dicks' approach when done badly can produce little more than "text videos" of the stories, but when done well it can produce novelisations that really stand out and are a joy to read. This book is one of the best from the early years of Target. 10/10